In Hollywood, if your career cools but the insiders like you, you wind up doing the cha-cha on "Dancing With the Stars." If the hits stop coming and you've rubbed powerful people the wrong way, you end up selling a nighttime sleep aid like Katherine Heigl.
The tart-tongued actress won an Emmy for "Grey's Anatomy" in 2007, but left the show abruptly in 2010 after months of run-ins with, well, everyone. She didn't like the writing on "Grey's," she said. She reportedly failed to show up for work; she grandiosely refused to submit her name for another Emmy because the "integrity" of the TV academy was at stake. And it wasn't just "Grey's": She felt the movie "Knocked Up," which boosted her visibility, was "sexist."
Guess what happened? Heigl's phone stopped ringing. By 2012, she admitted leaving "Grey's" was a mistake. Earlier this year, she appeared in a ZzzQuil ad (above). Mind you, not as an celebrity endorser. This was uncredited work, the same kind of gig struggling actors take when they're just trying to stay afloat. If you didn't watch the ad closely, you wouldn't realize it was the same performer who was commanding a $12-million movie salary just a few years ago.
This week the Hollywood Reporter all but wrote the obit for Heigl's career, with a scathing piece that quoted an unnamed executive: "She's not worth it."
Luckily for Heigl, someone is still willing to toss her a lifeline. Those would be NBC executives, who earlier this month announced development of a new series in which Heigl would play a high-level CIA analyst with a complicated personal life.
This still-untitled show is what is known in the TV biz as a "put pilot," which means the network has committed to airing it — or else paying a hefty penalty to the studio. That's as close to a sure thing as you can get in the industry. But then, there are no sure things in the industry.
Assuming the show actually makes it to air, it would constitute a crucial second chance for Heigl. Then it would be up to audiences to decide. The Reporter article quoted a "source close to the star" who predicted: "There's a really loyal, huge fan base that's waiting to see her," he says.
Guess we'll see about that.
What do you think of Katherine Heigl?